Repetition is the mother of learning. So they say. But who needs to repeat things until he learns when we have Google, which I used to make sure I correctly remembered this very maxim?
Electronic data may stand in place of facts remembered, but learning is far more than simple storage of information. Learning indicates a knitting together of facts into understanding and ability. This requires more than simply storage, no matter how “smart” one’s phone may be.
The readings of Sacred Scripture at Mass are long in these days, seeming to stretch longer every week as we move along in Lent toward the Mother of All Scriptural Readings, on Palm Sunday – the Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You can’t try to tell me you haven’t noticed; every Sunday, the Liturgy of the Word seems to have more and more. Why do we go through all this? There is no new information being presented, no new facts. We have heard all of this before.
For every time you hear the Sunday Scriptures, I have gone over them several, sometimes many times more, just in that very week. And although I am on my fifth or even sometimes tenth time preaching a set of these readings, I assure you that it never fails that something new appear to me. Sometimes a word, phrase, or line seems so alien and unfamiliar that I even check to see if it was there the last time I read it. Sometimes words so familiar come along that I need not even read them, but nonetheless, in that moment, they reveal something different and completely new.
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword. (Heb 4:12) Time and time again we return to the words of Scripture so that we might encounter this Word, living and active. We need to hear over and over again the mighty deeds of God read forth to us, on different days, when we are in different circumstances and dispositions. The Word of God become flesh, Jesus Christ, reveals Himself to us in the words of Scripture re-read and re-heard in the midst of His Body, the Church united in worship. There is nothing new among the words, but only the Word, who makes all things new. (Rev 21:5)
So we return again and again to this privileged place where the words are read and re-read in the context of communion. What was recognized before is not lost, but often enhanced; and what was hidden before, is revealed. We who would know our God need over and over to allow Him to speak to us, that we may hear His words of eternal life. Repetition is the mother of learning.
And because learning is not only knowing, but also doing, there are other things we repeat, time and again. Last week you all participated, again, in the Archdiocesan Lenten Food Drive, offering approximately 4,080 pounds of food (190 bags from the church, 130 from the school and Religious Ed). That is more than two tons! While this was 120 pounds (not much, really) less than last year, don’t forget that unlike last year, just weeks ago we had a special parish food drive to help sister parishes in the heart of DC, to which you also gave a huge amount.
This is another thing we do again and again. Like learning Scripture, we are never finished meeting the needs of our neighbor. Failure to repeat is a recipe for ignorance. Repetition of Scriptures, repetition of charity; all this repetition is the mother of learning: of learning Christ.